Author’s Note: This interlude roughly takes place in-between chapters One and Two of “A Goddess of Anarchy”. While it is not required reading, it provides some interesting background details on the history of this universe and the eponymous goddess who suffered its petty tyrannies.
The universe she cared about was dying. But had it ever truly begun to live? Caught in the timeless comfort of her personal realm, the goddess Care cast her mind back to the beginning. No, to even before the beginning, when the Second Kalpa had yet to be realized. She herself was a product of the one before it, a time when the structure of the pantheon had been of a different kind entirely.
Back in the those days, the cosmos had been ruled by a lordly Triumvirate, three gods who proclaimed themselves the eternal creators of this universe. They bestowed supreme authority upon themselves for this deed, and forbid the granting of any divine gift or power without their blessing. Since their power was infinite, and their claims seemed legitimate, few gods or beings dared to interfere with their hegemony. But over time, discontent grew among the obedient masses. The rule of the Triumvirate proved rather arbitrary, with their personal whims holding more sway than any principle of justice. Many enterprising gods felt like they were being held back by the trio’s corruption and nepotism, and they longed for liberty and representation. These were radical values for the time, and they spread like wildfire among those beings who held power without privilege, ambition without outlet. Pretty soon they formed a cosmic citizenry, self-fulfilled gods who would whip up the masses on behalf of their ‘republican’ aspirations. These would be the architects of the coming Kalpa.
When the revolution finally kicked off, and the Triumvirate was at the mercy of their former underlings, they revealed much in their pleading. Yes, the rumors and remnants were true, there had been a Zeroth Kalpa before them. But that was no place to go back to! There had been chaos, anarchy, and if these ‘vanguard gods’ had only lived through that themselves, they would be more grateful for the order that had been brought to the universe. There was no alternative to divine rule, and the only thing these revolutionaries would be creating was a more inefficient system. But the begging had little effect, and the ten thousand heads of these three gods each came off with the swiftest stroke. Now that the killing was over, the real work of constituting a new world could begin. The founding gods spoke of elections, and juries, and all kinds of other institutions they were excited about. True creative freedom was about to be unleashed, a system where each being could be secure in their right to power, as long as they were strong enough to attain it. With these political imaginations, the next Kalpa was dreamed into existence.
During these moments of revolution, constitution, and transition, Care’s role had been minimal. She had mostly been concerned with the collateral suffering of such proceedings, seeking to minimize the force that they entailed. But even these ameliorative efforts were often thwarted by the maximum autonomy every individual god sought to attain; it was every creator for themselves, and none had the right to point to their embarrassing externalities. The freedom of the masters at the expense of their serfs: now where had she seen that before? Yes, the cycle of subservience seemed to be innovating rather than dissipating, and Care found herself a shameful accomplice.
Once the initial phase of preparation and creation had passed, the true challenge arrived: government. The Natural Law they had collectively decided upon would see to it that all were compelled to rule together, no matter their internal squabbles. Indeed, as the Kalpa got going and their rivalries intensified, the plenary sessions of the Central Committee became just about their only piece of common ground, though even this peaceful deliberation was fraught with hidden hostility. Entropy was the operative word in these affairs, as their ability to govern collectively broke down under the steady stress of political inertia. Those who even marginally profited off the status quo were loath of any potential changes, and those who desired change could not unite around a single course of reform. Despair was omnipresent, a situation which only benefited the sadistic Lords of Anxiety. And even they would soon tire of the endless monotony. Something had to be done.
Care had also been disturbed by this political impasse, though for reasons radically different from those of her peers. While she did not seek novelty or efficiency in the government of their Kalpa, she had noticed that waste and suffering were building up in almost every realm, and she knew that the common created peoples could not endure such dysfunction for much longer. Even if the other gods were too caught up in their own affairs to notice this, some necessary endpoint was clearly approaching. If a functional reality-state was to be maintained, the deadlock had to be lifted soon. And since that was the greatest act of care she could imagine, Care herself was forced to get involved. She would lead the committee in saving their worlds.
Though she was not the first to point out the deleterious effects of ‘Universal Entropy’, Care’s efforts at bringing this issue to public attention would see the inauguration of a new political era. Around her would gather a great coalition of other divine beings, all intent on preserving their common creation and reinstating the social peace described in their constitution. Unsurprisingly, this faction came to be called the Party of Preservation. However, while Care had worked to emphasize the political roots of Universal Entropy, a chaos caused by petty rivalries and wanton cruelties, those who would take her place in the spotlight turned this conversation in a more philosophical direction. They claimed that decay was a natural side-effect of all creation, but could be staved off through the right ordering of divine rulership. By putting the ecology of gods into a mutually reinforcing arrangement, the regenerative power of the universe could be made to last forever. Or such was their theory. Care found it thoughtful and inspiring at times, but something about it still bothered her. Still, as long as the Party of Preservation could break the committee’s impasse, she supposed it was all right in the end.
However, Care’s coalition-building would soon beget a strong political reaction. A new faction was forming in the committee, and its extremist ideology was partly owed to the rhetoric she had herself promoted. These were called the Progressives, the Reformists, the Revisionists; their ever-shifting name reflected their deep belief in cosmic renewal. The metaphysics they appealed to were rather straightforward: if Universal Entropy was natural and unlikely to be prevented, then why should they not get ahead of this inevitable collapse and create something different right now? Revolution and renewal had been the outcome of the previous Kalpa, and perhaps they just needed a few more tries to get it right. Other gods went even further, claiming that periodic renewal was an eternal truth, and that they should not deceive themselves with promises of harmony and stability altogether. But whether they believed in a Temporary of Eternal Revolution, many would join the call for a new Kalpa, and the Central Committee eventually settled into a bipartisan rhythm of Preservation versus Progress. Though this political environment was certainly more passionate than it had been before, this did not make it any less incompetent, and the continued deadlock brought the goddess of Care a great deal of pain and regret.
Though she considered her political work a failure, Care tried to adapt to the new environment as best she could. She spoke incessantly of the plight of Creation itself, as well as all the wonderful life it contained. The reduction of suffering should be their utmost priority, but both the Conservationists and the Reformists would countenance great destruction for the sake of their particular perfections. Had they no sense of duty, of decency, of divinity altogether? All this question earned her were mocking laughs and harmful stares. A prominent reply would claim that she merely sought the advancement of her own domain; after all, if they all cared as much about the universe as she did, it would only strengthen the power of the principle, and of she who governed it. Care rebuked such accusations of selfishness: there was no personal gain in caring, only the realization of an ultimate reality. Then again, she would wonder in private moments, perhaps every god was ‘selfish’ in perpetuating a single notion above all others. Even the altruistic could not help but be themselves; she was no exception. Was there something to transcend in all this?
She would not speak such doubts aloud. What mattered at that time was her political offensive, and hoping to find an easier target than the Central Committee at large, she went on to target the doctrine of Revolution specifically. Even if the hierarchies proposed by some Conservationists were terrible, at least they would leave some amount of present beings alive. By contrast, the idea of a Third Kalpa inherently suggested the utter annihilation of all life throughout spacetime; they had been lucky the first one had been a lifeless experiment in geometry and physics, or this would be their second mass killing in a row. She asked how her opponents could justify such slaughter. The answer she got would be short and offensive. Sure, they said, the process itself would mean the end of all life so far created, but this was actually a kindness: they were just heading off the inevitable death of the universe! Was euthanasia somehow prohibited if its scale was infinite?
But these were lies, and Care knew them to be such. If these gods were motivated by mercy, she would have been the first one to sense it. Instead, they were merely looking to get rid of a project that wasn’t working out for them. Such egotism was nothing new, and had governed these worlds from the beginning. That was what she opposed, not the end of the Kalpa in itself. If, in some far distant aeon, the world had to be reincarnated, then so be it. But this was not the time. The universe she cared about wasn’t dying; it was being killed, and its murderers were all around her. This she would remember forever.